Na Alii edge Sabers, keep season alive
LAHAINA — The King Kekaulike High School girls basketball team has been to two state tournaments in school history.
On Monday night, Na Alii grinded out a 43-40 win over Maui High in the Maui Interscholastic League Division I tournament semifinals at Lahainaluna to give themselves two chances to get back to state.
Third-seeded King Kekaulike (9-4) will play top-seeded Lahainaluna, a 51-37 winner over Kamehameha Maui, tonight for the tournament title.
If Lahainaluna wins that game, the Lunas clinch their 16th straight MIL title and Maui High and King Kekaulike would play for the MIL’s second state spot on Thursday. If Na Alii win tonight, they would clinch a state berth and play the Lunas again for the MIL crown Thursday.
“Well, you know it was huge, all we were telling ourselves was that we had to push harder, work together as a team,” Namahana Kaeo-Young said after scoring seven of her 11 points in the fourth quarter. “We were thinking that this was our last game, so we just pushed our hardest to the very end.”
After giving up a 12-point halftime lead in the third quarter, King Kekaulike dug deep, took the lead early in the fourth quarter and held on for the win.
Maui High took a 29-27 lead with a 21-7 advantage in the third quarter as Makena Stevenson scored eight points in the period.
Na Alii started the fourth quarter on a 4-0 run to take the lead on a steal and layup by TC Pahukoa with 7 minutes, 11 seconds left in the game. Maui High took the lead back, 34-31, on a 3-point play by Kayla Thornton with 6:32 to go.
Kealia Purdy made a free throw and Kaeo-Young sank a midrange jumper to tie the score at 34-34. Purdy scored inside, Kaeo-Young sank a pair of free throws and Ashante Wong scored off an assist from Ledjan Pahukoa to cap a decisive 9-0 run, giving Na Alii a 40-34 lead with 2:15 to go.
Kaeo-Young’s drive with 1:12 remaining made it 42-36, and Maui High did not get closer than the final score after that. Kylenna Rieta’s running 3-pointer at the buzzer was off, and the Sabers were left to hope for a Lahainaluna victory today to get another shot at their second straight state tournament.
King Kekaulike’s only trips to state came in 2014 and 2011, both as the MIL runners-up. Two wins against the mighty Lunas is a tough ask, but Kaeo-Young would enjoy the challenge of trying to claim the school’s first MIL girls basketball crown.
“Oh my gosh, I don’t even know what to say,” she said. “That’s just all we’ve been working for.”
King Kekaulike coach Cy Peters was happy to see his girls battle back. They lost their last game against Maui High after giving up a double-digit lead when the Sabers outscored them 22-6 in the final quarter.
“Must-win and our girls played like it in the end,” Peters said. “We had lapses in the start of the second half, but they bumped it up and did the right thing.”
Na Alii led 20-8 at halftime after Purdy scored nine of King Kekaulike’s 10 points in the second quarter.
Ledjan Pahukoa committed her fourth foul with 26 seconds left in the first half and was forced to start the third quarter on the bench.
Na Alii led 10-3 after the first quarter, which was capped by a steal and ensuing layup by TC Pahukoa just before the buzzer.
Stevenson led the Sabers (9-4) with 10 points.
“Good competition all around and best of luck to both teams tomorrow,” Maui High coach Crystal Bal said. “My team, again, we stuck it out. … We believe in us and whatever happens, it’s meant to be.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com.
KING KEKAULIKE (43)
Cailyn Ukida 2, TC Pahukoa 7, Kylee Dee 0, Mary Pahukoa 0, Ledjan Pahukoa 2, Namahana Kaeo-Young 11, Annalee Peters 6, Alia Ah-You 0, Ashante Wong 3, Kreyajan Pahukoa 2, Kailia Purdy 10, Keira Archangel 0.
MAUI HIGH (40)
Jacy Anne Dela-Cruz 0, Kayla Thornton 7, Hiilani Arai 3, Kylenna Rieta 7, Makena Stevenson 10, Atasha Timbreza 6, Sophia Otsuka 0, Natea Rosete-Tokuhisa 0, Kaylyn Cortez 0, Leiana Thornton 7, Ronie-Lynn Butihi 0.
King Kekaulike 10 10 7 16–43
Maui High 3 5 21 11–40
KAMEHAMEHA MAUI (37)
Kuumana Bailey 0, Sienna Poeopoe 0, Poli Kaia 0, Makamae Kaili-Kramer 0, Lauryn Dubach 1, Tatiana Soon 4, Laakea Hurney 0, Logan Spencer 3, Mikiala Sniffen 16, Alexcandria Retuta 0, Angel Pauole 13, Kealia Sjostrand 0, Alyssia Fernandez-Ruiz 0.
Paia Asuela 0, Ashley Akamine 4, Alea Kimokeo 2, Aira Baguyo 6, Piper Pascua 4, Kiera Kaniho 10, Taylor Eldredge 20, Ame Taufa 0, Margie Ruiz-Sana 2, Kyana Brucelas 3, Haley Mahoe 0.
KS Maui 7 4 12 14–37
Lahainaluna 14 7 19 11–51
D-I semifinal: Lahainaluna 51, Kamehameha Maui 37
D-I semifinal: King Kekaulike 43, Maui High 40
D-I final: King Kekaulike at Lahainaluna, 7 p.m.
D-II semifinal: Seabury Hall vs. Hana at Molokai, 5:30 p.m.
D-II semifinal: Lanai at Molokai, 7 p.m.
D-I overall championship or second-place playoff at Lahainaluna, 7 p.m.
D-II final at Molokai, 7 p.m.
D-II overall championship or second-place playoff, if necessary, at Molokai, 10 a.m.